I don’t get this. United’s red carpet

I don’t get this. | Originally uploaded by mstephens7

Coming back from Minneapolis last night, I fell into conversation with a couple waiting to board our plane about the red carpet and roped aisles United Airlines implemented awhile back for 1K and super-duper-executive-mileage types. The lady remarked how silly it seemed and the gentleman said: “How did they ever explain THAT in a meeting.”

EXACTLY what I was thinking. It’s such a strange thing to route some folks one way (across a red carpet) and all the rest of us the other way.

When I got back, I searched a bit and found this:

United’s Red Carpet at Pragmatic Marketing. The whole post reflects what can happen in libraries:

United is now offering Red Carpet service at the airport. “Premier” customers go across the red carpet; “regular” customers don’t. Does this seem silly to anyone else? None of the premier customers think it’s special but it’s somewhat likely to offend the regular ones. And it’s so clearly an afterthought because there isn’t adequate room in the gate area for the special aisle.

This is why “user interface” is a phrase that usability experts despise. The implication is that you can slap a UI onto an existing product to make it user-friendly. Did some marketer at United say, “Our customer satisfaction will go up if we throw a red carpet on the floor.” The red carpet doesn’t make a better experience and its clearly not integrated with the reality of the gate area.

While I’m on the subject, are your marketing programs in sync with your operational realities? How often does your marketing department have a great idea that can’t be implemented or that generate the wrong results? Do you generate leads even though sales people don’t want them?

What’s so frustrating is the silo nature of the typical organization, the disconnect between development, marketing, sales, and others. As a product manager, you should step back from your daily grind at look at the whole product experience through the eyes of buyers and users. Is it integrated? Or merely a disconnected set of parts?

Add this to the conversations playing out about user experience in libraries. Are silos in the way? Yes, in some places. Are there disconnects? Of course. How can we fix them?

Disclaimer: I am a Red Carpet Club card carrying member of Mileage Plus at the Executive Premier level. I enjoy upgrades just like most folks and there’s nothing better than getting away from the airport hubbub in the RCC (with a Fresca!).

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6 thoughts on “I don’t get this. United’s red carpet”

  1. The special red-carpeted short lane allows me to board any time.
    This flexibility permits to to walk up and go to the head of the line.
    Many would say that I deserve this perk.
    I fly United 5,000 miles each week and have United Global Services status.

  2. Dan – I didn’t know that detail because the United rep usually closes the lane off after the initial folks board. Will they stop boarding and open the lane back up? I usually have Seating 1 so I never see what happens after I get on.

  3. Honestly, it’s almost always closed. A perk that stares out at you but you can only rarely use. That’s even worse. I fly 20-25 days a month and I am United Star Alliance Gold. I rarely see this perk being available – just a tantalizing carpet as I stand back at the end of the line.
    Stephen

  4. kinda reminds me of the sneetches. no, there’s no guy with a belly-starring/de-starring machine making piles of dough; but the red-doormat vendor apparently had a tiny little windfall of business…

  5. I have spoken out about this absurd conceit both to United and to my road warrior colleagues who travel as much as I do (or more). I have yet to find anyone who thinks this is a smart or good or effective service element. It is just plain dumb because United has *always* boarded first class and 1K folks first and then Premier and Premier Execs immediately afterward. So the perk is simply to be able to have your shoes touch this little red carpet and then to have other people never walk where you walked because you are so special?! Ridiculous! And it is not like there is a surfeit of space in those areas either. So, for my money and loyalty give me the best service you can and treat me with intelligence (which this little carpet does not exemplify!).

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